St. Catharines sells city property cheap with condition that affordable and social housing be built on site

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Published November 30, 2021 at 2:55 pm

At Monday (November 29) night’s council meeting, St. Catharines sold 3.8 acres of city-owned land near downtown to a developer for only $1.35 million but it came with pretty strong conditions.

The property, once redeveloped, had to have a strong portion of property set up for both affordable and social housing or no dice.

The developer, Penn Terra Group Ltd. (PTGL), came back to the city with a plan that saw the new development composed of 43 per cent affordable housing, 14 per cent social housing and 43 per cent market rate housing.

It’s a deal, council told PTGL last night of the lands formerly used for their Community, Recreation and Culture Services administration building at 320 Geneva Street.

If this sounds like an ‘everyone but especially the community won’ scenario, it’s because it is, said Mayor Walter Sendzik.

“Today is a great day for those advocating for affordable, attainable and social housing in St. Catharines,” said Sendzik today. “Council and staff have been focused on finding ways to address the housing crisis in our community.”

“Last night’s decision to move forward with selecting a building company with a solid track record to construct social, affordable and attainable housing on city-controlled land is a first in St. Catharines. We are addressing housing affordability and this is another strong example of our commitment as a city.”

PTGL has proposed the construction of a nine-storey building with 180 rental units and a four-storey building with 32 two-bedroom townhomes. In addition, approximately 19,000 square feet of commercial space could be developed on the site, alongside three community gardens.

The affordable housing portion of the development will consist of the 32 townhomes, which will be sold at 10 per cent below the average purchase price of a resale unit in the regional market area and 60 rental units rented at 80 per cent of average market rents for a unit in the regional market area.

“This is really a win-win for us, we are bringing money back to taxpayers with the sale of this underutilized property and, at the same time, driving development of affordable housing that is desperately needed in our community,” said City CAO David Oakes, adding, “this choice is responsible not only financially, but socially.”

Just to be certain their wishes are carried on, the City has placed legal restrictions on the sale and transfer of the property to ensure the development is completed as proposed. Pending development approvals, construction could begin as early as May 2023.

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